Moved by Lord Paddick
8: After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—“Scrutiny of investigation: timeliness(1) The Police (Complaints and Misconduct) Regulations 2020 are amended as follows. (2) After regulation 13 insert—“13A Scrutiny of investigation: timeliness (1) A legally qualified person within the meaning of regulation 28(4)(a) and (6) of the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2020 shall be appointed to scrutinise the information provided pursuant to regulation 13. (2) On each occasion where information is provided in writing under regulation 13 paragraph (1) or (2) the legally qualified person appointed under paragraph (1) shall determine whether there is good and sufficient reason for—(a) the time already taken; and(b) realistically anticipated to be needed for completion of the investigation.(3) In determining whether there is good and sufficient reason under paragraph (2) the legally qualified person may have regard to any relevant matter, and shall have particular regard to—(a) whether the investigation has been efficient and effective;(b) whether there has been unnecessary or unreasonable delay having regard to complexity and seriousness of the case;(c) the impact upon the officer and others;(d) any anticipated further delay;(e) the public interest and affect upon confidence in the police disciplinary system; and(f) representations made on behalf of any person entitled to receive a copy of the information provided under regulation 13.(4) Unless the legally qualified person determines that there is good and sufficient reason under paragraph (2)(a) and (b) then—(a) all investigation into possible misconduct or gross misconduct shall be terminated forthwith; and(b) no disciplinary proceedings may be initiated in respect of the matters under investigation.(5) Nothing in this provision shall have any effect in relation to any criminal investigation.”(3) After regulation 19 insert—“19A Scrutiny of investigation: timeliness (1) A legally qualified person within the meaning of regulation 28(4)(a) and (6) shall be appointed to scrutinise the information provided pursuant to regulation 19.(2) On each occasion where information is provided in writing under regulation 19(1) the legally qualified person appointed under paragraph (1) shall determine whether there is good and sufficient reason for—(a) the time already taken; and(b) realistically anticipated to be needed for completion of the investigation.(3) In determining whether there is good and sufficient reason under paragraph (2) the legally qualified person may have regard to any relevant matter, and shall have particular regard to—(a) whether the investigation has been efficient and effective;(b) whether there has been unnecessary or unreasonable delay having regard to complexity and seriousness of the case;(c) the impact upon the officer and others;(d) any anticipated further delay;(e) the public interest and affect upon confidence in the police disciplinary system; and (f) representations made on behalf of any person entitled to receive a copy of the information provided under regulation 19.(4) Unless the legally qualified person determines that there is good and sufficient reason under paragraph (2)(a) and (b) then—(a) all investigation into possible misconduct or gross misconduct shall be terminated forthwith; and (b) no disciplinary proceedings may be initiated in respect of the matters under investigation.(5) Nothing in this provision shall have any effect in relation to any criminal investigation.””Member’s explanatory statementThis amends the Police (Complaints and Misconduct) Regulations 2020 to provide for a mechanism for scrutiny and consequences where there are delays in disciplinary proceedings being brought against police officers.
My Lords, there has been much criticism of the police complaints and misconduct process from the perspective of members of the public being unable to achieve justice, but much less has been said about the impact on the officers under investigation, to which I alluded in the last group. When we come to consider Clause 43 and Schedule 4 to the Bill, I will remind the House of the changes the Government brought about in the Policing and Crime Act 2017 to limit the length of time members of the public could be kept under investigation by the police and on police bail. The Government accepted the unfairness of suspects being kept in suspense for months, even years, with the threat of prosecution still hanging over them. This is something many police officers face, with even graver potential consequences than someone who is accused of a criminal offence—potentially losing their livelihoods through being sacked or required to resign from the police service.
When I was a police inspector in charge of a relief, or shift, of officers, a woman who had been arrested and taken to one of my police stations made an allegation of indecent assault by a police officer during a routine search to ensure that she did not have anything that could cause injury while she was being held in a cell. I heard a commotion in the custody suite and went to see what was happening, only to find her spreadeagled on the floor with one officer on each limb. The situation was explained to me: she had resisted being searched, fighting with the female officer designated to search her, and had to be restrained. I asked the prisoner if she was okay and if she was going to behave herself now, and then ordered two female officers to take her into a cell to be searched, much to the concern of male officers, who I ordered to remain just outside the cell door.
Another prisoner, who was present in the custody suite and subsequently interviewed in prison by officers from the complaints unit, corroborated to some extent the female prisoner’s account—a scuffle and then being held down on the floor—although her allegation was actually of indecent assault by a female officer during the search, out of sight of the witness. When the complaints unit took all the female officers who had been on duty that night away for questioning simultaneously and suspended one from duty, I asked that I be interviewed as I was also a witness who had seen nothing untoward.
As a result, I was interviewed as a suspect under caution in a criminal investigation. Although I had already qualified for a promotion, it was delayed for 18 months, and the local area police commander recommended that I face a full disciplinary hearing for lack of supervision, with a recommendation that I be sacked—perhaps related to having recently separated from my wife and having sought permission to cohabit with a man, or perhaps not.
The day that the local area commander retired from the police service, the headquarters complaints and discipline department responsible for scheduling discipline hearings dropped all proceedings against me, and I was promoted. But in the intervening period, my health suffered, my marriage ended and my career was on hold, even though I had done nothing wrong and, arguably, in coming forward as a witness, everything right.
This is but a relatively minor, albeit personal, example of the impact that prolonged police misconduct investigations can have, which, unlike criminal investigations, have no effective time limits placed upon them.
In another, more recent example, two police officers from Nottinghamshire faced a similar scenario. Both were involved in the detention of a female who had been arrested and charged with very serious offences at the Bridewell police station in the city. She was behaving in a violent and suicidal manner. Both police officers were accused of assault as they individually dealt with her in custody and tried to prevent her from self-harming. Those officers had to endure seven years and three investigations by the Independent Police Complaints Commission and its successor, the Independent Office for Police Conduct, of what was, in essence, a straightforward assault allegation which was fully captured on CCTV. When it eventually came to a hearing in April 2018, the Police Federation successfully argued abuse of process, due to breaches of regulations, lack of disclosure, errors and delays by the investigating body. It was subsequently discovered that it had dismissed evidence that would have cleared both officers.
In November 2013, officers in South Bedfordshire responded to a call about a male who was attempting to kick down the door of an address before running in and out of shops and into the road. The male was detained for mental health assessment and restrained for his own safety. He was placed in a police vehicle and transported to a police station. Regrettably, he died while in police custody. One of the officers gave a full account of his actions. His clothes were seized and, by the end of the week, he was informed that he was a suspect in a criminal investigation for gross negligence manslaughter, unlawful act manslaughter, misconduct in a public office and offences under the health and safety Act. The following week he was suspended from duty.
Four years later, the officer was informed that the CPS had decided that no charges should be brought again him, but he remained suspended. The suspension was eventually rescinded in April 2019, when he returned to work, although in a restricted capacity. During that time, he had received very few updates from the IPCC and was not given any explanation as to why it was taking so long.
In February 2020, six years and three months after the incident, the officer attended an IOPC-directed gross misconduct hearing. During those proceedings, it was discovered that an investigation review had been conducted by the IPCC in 2014—six years earlier. The IPCC had admitted that it had had insufficient resources and experience to conclude the investigation expeditiously. Inconsistencies were also discovered between the CCTV evidence and the witness evidence. As a result, Bedfordshire Police withdrew from prosecuting the misconduct hearing. The IOPC eventually withdrew the direction to hold a misconduct hearing. The officer was cleared of any wrongdoing and returned to work on full duties in March 2020.
The impact on the officer’s health and relationships has been devastating. One of the other officers involved was deemed too ill to give evidence at the inquest because of the post-traumatic stress disorder caused by the incident and the way in which the aftermath had been dealt with.
Police misconduct hearings are already chaired by an independent, legally qualified person, taken in turn from a pool of qualified chairs. This amendment would see these independent, legally qualified chairs who are experienced in the operation of the police misconduct system, reviewing misconduct investigations to ensure that there is good and sufficient reason for the length of time taken to bring misconduct proceedings, balanced against the seriousness of the allegations.
There is a requirement in existing regulations for those conducting police misconduct proceedings to write to the local policing body if the proceedings have not been concluded within 12 months, and again every six months after that. These are reported to directly elected mayors and police and crime commissioners, none of whom are likely to have the level of expertise and experience that the independent, legally qualified people who chair misconduct hearings have. Indeed, in the light of the events last week, one has to question whether some police and crime commissioners might be best placed to judge police misconduct at all.
The amendment would require such reports to go to one of the independent, legally qualified chairs instead. Currently there is no power for the directly elected mayor or the police and crime commissioner to make any directions as a result of receiving the report of the delay in the investigation. The amendment would allow the independent, legally qualified chair to terminate misconduct proceedings if there were no good or sufficient reasons for the delay.
I know from bitter personal experience how devastating prolonged periods under misconduct investigation can be, and the impact it can have on your career, your health and your loved ones—even more so when you know that you have done nothing wrong. This amendment simply gives independent oversight of misconduct proceedings by legally qualified, experienced misconduct hearing chairs to hold the police and the IOPC to account to ensure that these matters are concluded without unreasonable delay. I beg to move.
My Lords, it has been fascinating and very moving to listen to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, but I am coming at this from a completely different direction. Although I am partly thinking about the police officers involved, I am also thinking about people who bring complaints against police officers. I have seen the police complaints system at first hand. At some point in the past, a Met Police sergeant came to me and told me that he had seen a few officers deleting files that the Met held on me. These were files that I had asked to see and had been told did not exist—so I saw the police complaints system at first hand. I took a complaint to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, a vastly underresourced organisation trying to do its best on very difficult work. This was not an emotional issue for me—it was a professional, work issue—but that Met Police sergeant suffered PTSD and was essentially hounded out of the Met Police because he had come to me as somebody who wanted the truth exposed, and so was in a whistleblowing situation. I could not do anything for him, but I persisted with my complaint.
There is a saying that justice delayed is justice denied, and it is true on both sides—perhaps more when people are emotionally involved in the complaint they are making, which as I say did not really apply to me. In a way it is doubly true for complaints against the police, because there is a power imbalance. The police are seen to retain their positions, authority, power and legitimacy while complaints are ongoing, and this can be extremely upsetting.
This issue has come to light because of the allegations against the murderer of Sarah Everard. It is staggering, and truly terrifying, that the police had within their ranks somebody they knew, jokingly perhaps, as “The Rapist”. A noble Lord from this House, a previous Metropolitan Police Commissioner, who is not in his place today, said in an interview on the radio that it was not true that he was called “The Rapist”—but he is the only person I have heard saying that was not true. Perhaps another ex-Metropolitan Police Commissioner here might know better.
So it is time to cut the delays that everybody on both sides experiences in police complaints and disciplinary hearings and, most importantly, to give the independent watchdog the resources it needs to do the job. I have complained in the past about the number of police officers it employs, because it seems to me that you do not necessarily set a police officer to catch a police officer—but in fact it is so underresourced that I feel it would benefit from almost anybody if it increased its staff. So this is something that the Government have to deal with.
My Lords, I support this amendment. The basic problem around IOPC investigations is one of timeliness and quality. I am afraid it has gone on an awful long time. To be fair, from time to time it concerns police investigations under other bodies, but it has persisted, despite the fact that the organisation has changed over the years from the IPCC to now the IOPC. This particularly affected groups of officers such as firearms officers, some of whom have been under investigation for in excess of 10 years. That cannot be for anyone’s good.
We talked earlier about the trauma suffered by individual officers, and that is one of the major causes of such trauma. I therefore think that some time kind of time limit would be helpful. Even in a criminal case such as murder, the point from commitment to arriving at Crown Court is expected to be of the order of 100 days. If such a complex case can be taken so quickly, it seems to me that these cases are surely susceptible to travelling far more quickly and then being decided in the hearing far more quickly, too.
There are some peculiarities around the police misconduct process which have to be understood and, I think, given some sympathy—but these things can be changed. For example, when a complaint is made, particularly where a criminal allegation is alleged, there is a transmission of the case, first from the force to the IOPC, then it may go to the CPS, and then it may go back to the IOPC and then it may go to the force. This merry-go-round goes on for months. It is not at all unusual for these cases to go for at least one year and usually more, and for there still to be no outcome.
There is a further level of complication when, for example, special evidence needs to be given in a court case. It is difficult to talk about this in public, but essentially, when intelligence is gathered by the police that cannot be shared in court and cannot be shared in a coroner’s court, a public inquiry has to be held in front of a qualified judge. All this does is lengthen the whole process. It particularly affects firearms officers when they have to justify why they shot someone and they are unable to explain the intelligence they received. It means that the whole process goes round this rigmarole again.
There are various remedies to try to resolve this. One is a simple time limit. The difficulty with a time limit is that it can be hard-line and does not fit every case. Sometimes you need some discretion. I would argue that the decision-making between the IOPC, the CPS and the force should be done in parallel and not in sequence. The consequence of it being done in sequence is that it keeps going on and on and they keep referring it back to each other. Surely, they could consider the same case in parallel and therefore reduce the time. It would be a good idea to have a legally qualified chair seriously examining the timeline and whether or not it is justified. If it is not justified, the chair should be able to intervene. If it is justified, of course the case should continue.
My final point may be to one side of the amendment, but it is important because it goes to the point about timeliness and quality. One of the challenges faced by the IOPC is that it does not always send its most experienced investigators to deal with the most complex cases. The equivalent for the police service would be that you never send your shoplifting squad to deal with a murder—that would not be very sensible. Officers build their experience in the shoplifting squad and may go on to do more complex things.
The reason may be, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, said, that the IOPC has insufficient resources. I think it also has insufficient specialism and does not build up its expertise. When a serious case comes in—someone loses their life or it is a serious allegation—they should dispatch the A team, not the people who happen to be available. I do not think that does anyone any good when they have to deal with serious matters which the families want straight answers to and the officers want to believe that the investigators have some maturity of judgment. It is not a matter of age but a matter of experience. For those reasons, the IOPC should consider this. It is not exactly pertinent to the amendment, but it is relevant to the discussion about quality that we can fairly have about IOPC investigations at the moment.
My Lords, I strongly support these amendments. I too have little confidence in the IOPC and the resources that are available to it. It was very interesting to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, said about it. We must shed some light on the timelines for these investigations, both for the police officers and for the alleged victim.
I have been within and have commanded a disciplined organisation, and I was always acutely aware of the need to complete investigations as fast as possible when something had gone wrong. If this amendment does not find favour and the noble Lord needs to return on Report, I can make a very much longer speech then.
My Lords, I am very grateful for the opportunity to speak to Amendment 8, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and of which the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, is a co-signatory. It is an important amendment. I was particularly moved by the comments made by the noble Baroness, reminding us that of course it is from a police officer’s point of view but that this is also about a complainant’s point of view. It is from both sides that this debate has taken place.
Sometimes you look at an amendment and wonder whether it is as important as some others. Listening to the moving opening remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and those of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and others, I have been struck that this is a crucial amendment and a crucial discussion which is of huge significance to the police, communities and our country, particularly in light of issues that have arisen over the last few months. However, investigations that are delayed and drag on without resolution are completely unacceptable for the complainant and the officer in question.
I was completely unaware and absolutely astonished to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, from his experience as a former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, that officers under investigation have been waiting for 10 years. Whatever the rights and wrongs of what happened and whether they were guilty or innocent, that cannot be right. This has got to be looked at by the Minister who now has responsibility for this, wherever you come from in the debate. I am sorry if other noble Lords knew this, and that I was the only person here who was unaware of it. I knew that there were delays, but frankly, that is astonishing. We have just had a significant and important debate on protecting the mental health of our officers. One can only imagine the mental health implications for people under investigation but also, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, reminded us, for people who have made the complaints. It does not serve justice for anybody.
There is some suggestion about delays in driving cases, but if she knows, can the Minister tell the Committee whether there is a particular delay in one area or a general problem across investigations? The noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, mentioned firearms, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, mentioned some other examples, but is there a particular problem which emerges when a complaint is made in a particular area? There have been many references to certain offences not being taken seriously even when complaints were made, but it would be interesting for the Minister to come back to us on that.
I think that, at its heart, this amendment is saying that if we do not get this right, public confidence is undermined and eroded, and it is of no benefit to any of us not to be confident in the system. We must believe that the investigations which take place are fair, operate in a timely manner and are done with that integrity which people can understand and believe. We all accept that. Nobody here would disagree that this is the process which must happen and should be in place. However, as we have heard, that is not happening. Therefore, the amendment rightly asks us whether the answer is to set a time limit, to lay out a process that is better and more effective. The key question for the Minister is: what plans are there to review and update the disciplinary process, to restore public confidence and to reassure all of us that, at the end of the day, not only those who are complained against can feel confident but those who are making the complaint? That is the resolution that we all want from this important amendment.
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, set out, this amendment seeks to further improve the timeliness of disciplinary and misconduct proceedings against police officers. It seeks to do this by amending existing regulations governing complaint and misconduct investigations by the IOPC, as well as those conducted by force professional standards departments. In substance, they seek to introduce a new system of separate independent adjudicators with powers to close down investigations which have taken longer than 12 months, where they decide that there is no “good and sufficient” reason for delay.
Again, with this amendment, I agree with the thrust of what the noble Lord and others said, namely that disciplinary and misconduct investigations should be conducted and completed in a timely fashion, for the reasons set out by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, and the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Hogan-Howe. Like the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, when I heard “10 years” I was utterly shocked. However, this amendment comes at a time when investigation timescales are already reducing and when the Government have worked hard to reduce bureaucracy in the system and not add to it.
Under the IOPC’s predecessor, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, investigations would on average take 11 months. Since 2018, under the IOPC, that has fallen by almost 30% to just eight months. The IOPC has closed more than 90% of its cases in under 12 months and is making strong progress on the number of cases that it closes in under nine months and even in under six months. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, said, it is in nobody’s interest for investigations to drag on for long periods unnecessarily. We recognise the impact that this can have on everyone concerned.
It might be helpful in terms of explaining the trajectory that the Government introduced a package of reforms in February last year to the police complaints and disciplinary systems. It included new provisions to improve timeliness, with an expectation that investigations will normally be completed within 12 months. If not, the investigating body must provide a written explanation of any delays and steps to bring the investigation to a conclusion. The Government expect the IOPC to go further, and it now has targets in its business plans to complete many of those investigations in under nine and six months, as I said.
There are a number of reasons why cases might take too long, including the complexity of a case, the time- scale being impacted by parallel criminal investigations, and delays in obtaining expert evidence or post-mortem reports. It might be further complicated by delays in obtaining accounts from key police witnesses and subjects. That said, it is not acceptable for investigations to go on for too long, but the trajectory of timescales is certainly downwards.
The noble Lord’s amendment would introduce an additional layer of cost and bureaucracy. It would also risk creating perverse incentives for investigators to rush to meet deadlines at the expense of the quality of an investigation, particularly in those complex cases or if historic matters are at stake.
If an investigation into police wrongdoing was terminated without being concluded and that officer might have had a case to answer for gross misconduct—I can think of very recent cases which are relevant here—this would significantly undermine public confidence and potentially the course of justice. I am sure that is not the intention of noble Lords.
The amendment also risks undermining the independence of the police disciplinary system, blurring the lines between when legally qualified persons are appointed to this role and when the same person is appointed as a legally qualified chair of a misconduct hearing. These individuals would be selected from the same pool. That fundamentally changes the role of a legally qualified chair and jeopardises the independence of their position and the disciplinary system.
In conclusion, the Government have already taken steps to reduce investigation timescales and we will be monitoring the timeliness of investigations, drawing on new data collection requirements that we introduced as part of recent reforms. I hope that, for the reasons I have outlined, the noble Lord will be happy to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this important debate, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, for her support for speedy justice. Obviously, this impacts the complainant as well as the officers.
I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, for his contribution. It seems very strange standing here and talking about a former commissioner in that way, but I am in police mode at the moment, I think. He made a very important point about firearms officers who volunteer to take on this enormous responsibility and are then treated so badly by the system.
The Police Federation—I am grateful for its support of these amendments—accepts that there will be delays if a criminal investigation is involved. However, there are still significant delays even after the criminal matters have been dealt with, as I outlined in the examples I gave.
I thank the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, for his promise to come back all guns blazing, as it were, if I bring the amendment back on Report.
It is interesting that there is a parallel with the Armed Forces again. I spoke to a former soldier who was resigning from the police service and asked him why. He said that he was leaving because, in the Armed Forces, when something goes wrong, the most senior officer involved takes responsibility and faces a court martial, while in the police service, the responsibility is pushed down to the lowest-possible level, to alleviate the responsibility of senior officers. That is an aspect of the culture of the police service; I agree with that officer’s conclusions.
The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, talked about public confidence. If there is no confidence in the Independent Office for Police Conduct and the police complaints system, this will be partly due to the undue delays. Complainants are beginning to think “What are they trying to cover up? Why is it taking so long?”. It is essential that these things are dealt with in a timely manner.
I thank the Minister for her support in principle, but the examples I gave were not complex cases; they were simple, but they still took years. They did not involve expert witnesses, yet there were still delays. These are recent cases from last year.
I am sorry but I do not accept the Minister’s assertion that this amendment would result in a rush to complete investigations. These completely independent people would assess whether there were justified reasons for investigations going on as long as they had. Clearly, if these investigations were not being dealt with in a timely manner, they would have something to worry about. This is about picking up those cases in which there is unnecessary and unreasonable delay. Of course, the same chair would not adjudicate over whether an investigation was going on too long and then chair the discipline investigation.
We are on to something here and I am very grateful to the Police Federation for bringing it to my attention. We may well need to discuss this further on Report, but at this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 8 withdrawn.
Clause 2: Increase in penalty for assault on emergency worker